UCLA Football: Why Myles Jack Is the Bruins MVP for 2013

Jason Fray@https://twitter.com/Jason_FrayCorrespondent INovember 18, 2013

Nov 15, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Myles Jack (30) celebrates after the game against the Washington Huskies at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It'd be easy to say that either Brett Hundley or Anthony Barr was the MVP thus far for the UCLA Bruins in 2013.

Hundley has thrown for 2,384 yards and 20 touchdowns through the first 10 games this year. He's also the team's leading rusher with 502 yards on the ground. Barr leads the team with seven sacks. The elite defender also leads the team in forced fumbles (4), fumble recoveries (3) and tackles for loss (14.5). 

Each has been instrumental in the Bruins' current 8-2 record. Without either, UCLA wouldn't be playing for a potential Pac-12 South Division title.

With that said, neither Barr nor Hundley has been the most valuable player on the season for Jim Mora's team.

That distinction belongs to Myles Jack.

The true freshman from Bellevue, Washington (by way of Atlanta) has taken college football by storm in his inaugural campaign.

From a statistical standpoint, one would be hard-pressed to find a more productive true freshman from the linebacker spot. Jack is tied for third on the team in total tackles with 67, and he is second in solo tackles with 45.

The outside 'backer is second on the team in tackles for loss with five, first in pass breakups with 10 and first in pass deflections with 11. His defensive resume also includes a blocked punt and a fumble recovery.

Nov 15, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; ESPN reporter Allison Williams (left) interviews UCLA Bruins running back Myles Jack (30) after the game against the Washington Huskies at Rose Bowl. UCLA defeated Washington 41-31.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY S
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

But his statistical brilliance does not tell how good Jack truly is as a player.

At 6'1" and 225 pounds, Jack is equipped with the athleticism to stick with tight ends and wide receivers in space. He's often in the game as a nickelback, matched up with slot receivers on third-down attempts. 

Jack's speed allows him to play from sideline to sideline. He makes a ton of plays in his relentless pursuit of ball-carriers. Players with his size usually are unable to move the way he does. 

UCLA has suffered a litany of injuries at running back throughout the season. Steven Manfro, Jordon James, Damien Thigpen and Malcolm Jones have all missed time due to various physical ailments. Heading into the Arizona game last week, there was little to no depth at the position. 

People sometimes don't realize that Jack was an All-State running back in the state of Washington as a senior in high school.

There were multiple schools that recruited Jack solely as a tailback. His preference was to play as a linebacker, and that's a reason why he chose UCLA. 

Nov 15, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Myles Jack (30) celebrates with offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch (74) after scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for his fourth touchdown against the Washington Huskies at Rose Bo
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As Jack told the Seattle Times, "I still prefer defense. Some people feel that I should play running back, but in my heart I feel I'm a defensive player. But if they need me to carry the ball a couple of times, I'm definitely down for it."

Jack was surprisingly inserted at tailback against the Wildcats. His first carry went for over 30 yards. He then managed to gash the Arizona defense for a 66-yard touchdown. He finished the night with six carries for an eye-popping 120 yards.

The following week against his hometown team, the Washington Huskies, Jack rushed for four touchdowns. He became the first UCLA player to rush for at least four touchdowns since Maurice Jones-Drew accomplished the feat in 2005.

Jack isn't just a short-yardage back by any means.

He's got incredible acceleration and speed once in space. When running in a crowd, Jack displays awesome raw power; he's always keeping his legs moving, churning forward for extra yardage. 

Myles Jack is UCLA's best linebacker and best running back.

Would the Bruins have won the games versus Washington or Arizona without Jack? Utah very well could have beaten the Bruins earlier in the season had it not been for a late fourth-quarter interception by Jack to effectively close out the contest.

His impact on the field, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint, could not be overstated enough. 

Now as a running back, he's been the galvanizing force for an offense that had previously been sputtering. UCLA is heading towards its stretch run for the season. Games against Arizona State and USC will determine whether or not UCLA will win the Pac-12 South Division for a third straight year.

With nagging injuries to James and Thigpen, it'd be an absolute shock not to see Jack play an integral role as a running back for the remainder of the year.

As a defensive player, Jack was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week versus Arizona. 247 Sports named Jack the National True Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks. Sports Illustrated recently mentioned Jack in the Heisman Trophy conversation. 

The amount of public acclaim for the true freshman has been nothing short of astounding. A startling fact: Jack just recently turned 18 this past September.

In recent memory, the last two-way superstar in the college game was Charles Woodson. The former Michigan man ended up winning the Heisman Trophy in 1997. 

Could the "Jackhammer" have a similar trajectory?

Only time will tell.